Surrounded by elected officials, funders, and development partners, Community Access hosted a joyful groundbreaking on the morning of August 10th for Baez Place, its new affordable and supportive housing building in the Bronx.
The new building located in the Claremont section of the borough includes 154 units: 105 studio spaces, 21 one-bedroom, 22 two-bedroom, and six three-bedroom apartments. 54 of those will be dedicated to individuals with mental health concerns, and 32 will be for senior citizens who previously experienced homelessness. The remainder will be for income-eligible individuals and families.
The building includes on-site support services provided by Community Access including individual counseling, self-help groups, group activities, linkage to community-based health and mental health supports as well as urban agriculture programming. Amenities include a community room with a commercial kitchen, computer lab, laundry room, exercise room, rooftop greenhouse and 24/7 front desk security.
Community Access CEO Cal Hedigan kicked off the event noting that Baez Place is the organization’s 21st supportive/affordable housing residence overall and its tenth in the Bronx. She gave a special shout out to former CEO Steve Coe who joined in the celebration as well as CFO and General Counsel Chris Lacovara who “basically made this happen.”
Kicking off remarks was Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson who brought her trademark energy to the event proclaiming that she loves groundbreakings, and noting that she has seen Community Access planting seeds in the borough that grew over many years. She finished by telling the organization that they will always have a friend in the borough president. HCR Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas followed the borough president by saying she loved the analogy of planting seeds and said that her agency was dedicated to planting seeds of hope.
OMH Commissioner Dr. Ann Marie T. Sullivan followed, thanking Community Access for including homes for those living with mental health concerns. OTDA Assistant Director Dana Greenberg noted that Baez Place was the first Community Access project the agency had helped to fund but hoped it would not be the last. Assemblymember Yudelka Tapia of District 86 came next saying, “I’ve been fighting for housing like this all my life.” Dr. Bola Omotosho, Chair of Community Board 5 remembered first learning about the connection between mental health concerns and homelessness from Steve Coe years ago and thanked him for that education.
Also making remarks was Eli Weiss, Principal of Joy Construction, and Stephanie Pierre-Louis of Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Baez Place was named for the late Luis Baez, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic who formed his own property management company in the Bronx and who Community Access purchased the land from for the building. Mr. Baez passed away just before the purchase, and the organization agreed to name the building after him as part of the land acquisition.
Financing for this $86 million development was made possible by a collaboration of government and private funders: the New York State Housing Finance Agency, New York State Homes and Community Renewal, the New York State Office of Temporary Disability Assistance/Homeless Housing Assistance Corp., New York State Office of Mental Health, Bank of America Merrill Lynch Community Development Banking, and Richman Housing Resources.
The project is being designed by ESKW Architects and the contractor is Joy Construction.